Monday, October 22, 2018

Blessed are the shoemakers

In Norman times it was not uncommon for the Royals to have a trade. William the Conqueror was a tanner just like his grandfather before him.

Pope Urban IV (1261-64) was the son of a shoemaker and his real name was Jacques Pantaleon. Pope Urban IV is associated with two churches one of which was erected on the site of his father's shoe shop and the other, St Pantaleon contains a statuary by Francois Gentil (16th century) representing the arrest of St Crispin and his brother (Patron saints of shoemakers).

In 1316, another shoemaker was made pope, John XXII. He was a cunning fellow, and when he recognised the Papal conclave was unable to agree on a successor to the previous pope, he suggested he had a simple and fool proof solution. The conclave agreed to accept his solution and he promptly chose himself.

To kiss the Pope's slipper was a privilege few of the devout would miss. Prior to this custom kissing the Pope's ring was common place until a young lady overcome in the presence of His Eminence abused the Papal hand.

The upper of the shoe of Thomas Becket became part of the relics housed at St Nicholas, near Canterbury. Visitors were expected to kiss the leather.

In 1371 the first Charter of Chester cordwainers was established. Cordovanner or cordwainers took their name from Cordova a centre for the leather trade in Spain. The Cordova goat had died out by 1670. The cordwainers of Chester were compelled to provide the town with a "balle of leather called a footballe of the value of 3s. 4d."

In the fifteenth century during the reign of Henry VI (1421-71), Sir Simon Eyre became Lord Mayor of London. Simon was by trade a shoemaker. Thomas Beard was a cobbler in the 17th century and travelled in the New World. There shoe makers worked from home, in small shops or as roving workers. In the 19th century Charles Goodyear began experimenting with raw rubber. Most of his contemporaries felt because rubber was susceptible to melting in the sun it should be ignored. Goodyear meantime remained fascinated with the material and made magnesia-rubber overshoes in hid family kitchen. His son Charles Jnr made his fortune from shoe making machinery. By the 19th century machinery replaced most of the manual process and readymade shoes found an eager market. Once the machinery was employed to create shoes the design element broadened, permitting the use of innovative materials increasing function and offering creative shape and varied sizes. Machinery changed the face of the shoe making industry. Lasting did however present a problem and had to be completed by hand.

Jan Matzeliger was a South American shoe maker and spend many hours wrestling with the problem and ultimately invented a prototype machine which not only lasted a shoe but accomplished the task quickly and efficiently. Acceptance of the new machine eventually brought the cost of shoes down and hence more people could afford them.

Another milestone in the development of modern footwear took place in 1928 when Waldo Semon developed polyvinyl chloride (PVC). During experimentation he made shoe heels which years later led to the use of a vinyl-based latex for waterproofing boots. In 1964 Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight formed Nike. Bowerman developed optimal traction for the waffle sole by shaping rubber in a waffle iron. He also invented the wedged heels running shoe, cushioned mid-sole and nylon uppers.

John Hobbs was a well known shoe maker and had this poem written in his praise.

A jolly shoemaker , John Hobbs, John Hobbs;
A jolly shoemaker, John Hobbs.
He married Jane Carter ,
No damsel looked smarter;
But he caught a tarter,
John Hobbs, John Hobbs;
Yes, he caught a tarter, John Hobbs

He tied a rope to her, John Hobbs, John Hobbs;
He tied a rope to her , John Hobbs!
To 'scape from hot water ,
To Smithfield he brought her;
But nobody bought her,
Jane Hobbs, Jane Hobbs;
They all were afraid of , Jane Hobbs

Oh who will buy a wife ? says Hobbs, John Hobbs;
A sweet pretty wife says Hobbs.
But somehow, they tell us,
The wife-dealing fellows
Were all of them sellers.
John Hobbs, John Hobbs;
And none of them wanted, John Hobbs

The rope it was ready, John Hobbs, John Hobbs;
Come give me the rope, says Hobbs.
I won't stand to wrangle,
Myself I will strangle,
And hang dingle -dangle.
John Hobbs, John Hobbs;
He hung dingle-dangle, John Hobbs.

But down his wife cut him, John Hobbs, John Hobbs;
But down his wife cut him, John Hobbs.
With a few hubble bubbles,
They settled their troubles
Like most married couples
John Hobbs, John Hobbs;
Oh happy shoemaker, John Hobbs.

Reviewed 22/10/2018

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Little Richard: 50s cool

Arguably the real King of Rock and Roll is Richard Penniman born in Macon, Georgia. His frantically changed piano playing combined with distinctive raspy and trembling falsettos made his wild man stage shows electric and his music infective and different. “Little” may have been his stage name but Little Richard was no shrinking violet and wore flamboyant costumes with his distinctive long hair towering 6” pompadour. Influenced by the stage presence of the early gospel and blues performers that he saw as a child he incorporated the style and made it work in Rock’n’Roll. On stage the popeyed African American artist wore pancake make up, mascara and lipstick and dressed in brightly coloured sequenced outfit’s and with leather shoes to match or silver slippers. His performance was a marvelous spectacle to watch and joy to hear. Often as a finally, Little Richard would throw his shoes into the crowd. Little Richard was truly before his time “glam before it was sheik; gay before it became accepted; and wild before that was de rigueur accepted for rock performers. “Long Tall Sally (1956) is considered by many as the wildest recording of all time and was covered a decade later by the Beatles.

(Video Courtesy: OldNick Published by Youtube Channel)

His lyrics were full of innuendo which cased much concerns to the establishment, parents and church, but enthralled the masses and has continued to do so for over half a century. If any artist exemplified the cross over fusing gospel, blues, R& B, and boogie, it would have to be Little Richard. The larger than life performer had been the proverbial peacock on stage but privately had an internal conflict between the sacred and the secular and regularly renounced his sinful material possessions. Thank goodness he always came back to his popular music entertaining millions and inspiring many thousands of other rock musicians. The New Orleans’s rocker competed successfully with white artists including Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Gene Vincent to name but a few. As a recording artist he peaked between 1956/57 before leaving the music industry to become an ordained minister. Later he was attracted back to perform in the early sixties when UK beat groups rediscovered rock’n’roll. Little Richard had his hits at a time when Rock’n’ Roll was at its most infamous. The Beatles, James Brown, Chuck Berry, Otis Reading , Buddy Holly, Jimi Hendrix David Bowie, and Bob Dylan all were self confessed fans of Little Richard. On his tours Little Richard was backed by many famous musicians including Jimmy Hendrix.

The term juvenile delinquent was reserved for rebellious youth and kids were influenced by their heroes and wanted to dress the same. The war babies from the 50s had for the first time money to spend on themselves. Clothes records and cosmetics were now available for teenagers which suited their style and not their parents. At first it took time for the rag trade to wake up to the potential youth market. In North American youth followed conservative fashion and in the UK styles of clothing for young people had filtered down from Belgravie. Adolescents were expected to wear clothing which played down reference to sex and dress as young ladies and gentlemen. War played a major role in creating the cult of the teenager. With men over eighteen in the service, younger boys stepped in as "heads of families". as big men about town and picked up easy pocket cash in a labour scarce work force. Girls too earned money to lavish on themselves by baby sitting for parents on night shifts at war plants. Teens had money and Madison Avenue moved to siphon it off by promoting clothing crazes pop songs, and dances. Saturday nights, crowds of teenage kids would converge on their local dancehalls. Teenagers of the forties were largely innocent, sexually naive, less cynical, and uncritical of adults and the world around them. The biggest problem in their lives was coping with zits. By the late forties girls had a uniform of pleated skirt, baggy sweater, bobby sox and loafers. The absent father and working mother was also attributed to the alienated teenager who roamed the streets at night and was dubbed the juvenile delinquent. After the war the great North American population felt the years of hardship behind them now deserved better and for the next two decades they turned their back on realism in search of magic. By the close of the decade American teens were wearing motor cycle jackets and boots or else penny loafers. Girls were or bobby soxers had poodle skirts and two tone saddle shoes. Poodle skirts were made form felt and bore an appliqué of a fully coiffed French poodle with rhinestones for eyes and additional rhinestones defining a collar.

The new music from the United States brought European kids into contact with black music and rockabilly artists dressed in lavish stage attire. Until now clothing had been restricted until the end of rationing (UK) and the L-85 restrictions on clothing in the US. Prior to this styles worn by American youths included zoot suits. Zoot is rhyming slang for suite of clothing and these were cut baggy with an exaggerated broad shouldered look. Sociologists believe the cut of the jackets inferred they belonged to bigger people i.e. the missing adults away fighting the war. The highly coloured jacket had wide lapels with a long narrow "reet" pleat heavily padded shoulders, and multi button sleeves. The jackets were worn long like frock coats and complemented with high waisted trousers cut full in the thigh and tapering to an ankle-hugging tightness. These were called peg legs with the foot opening was so narrow the trousers needed ankle zippers. Young men wore wide brimmed fedora hats, a glaringly patterned fish tail tie, and a lengthy loop of curving key chain that began at the belt plunged below the knee and came to nestle in the trouser pocket. The outfit was complemented with white sharp toed shoes. Men who wore Zoot Suit outfits were sometimes referred to as Sharps or sharp dressed men.

The clothing style in the forties was closely associated with the underworld and the loose fit provided easy place to conceal weapons. Zoot suit sartorial was condemned in many States and the Clergy warned such clothing would only appeal to pre-repentant Mary Magdalene kind of women. At the time, Mary Magdalene was synonymous with prostitutes. During the war years riots broke out in New York and California when servicemen and the Zoots would rumble. Servicemen were banned from visiting the Big Apple and Los Angeles unless they had prior permission. In the UK a similar craze was happening and many historians believe the Zoot suit may have been the invention of a tailor called F P Scholte at the end of the nineteenth century. He adapted the oversized coats of Guard officers to become broad shouldered, wasted, fingerer tipped jackets. The waisted frock coats became popular with nineteenth century Australian larrikins. Larrikins was a term used to describe Jack the Lads up to mischief and no good which frequently involved aggressive criminal activity. Just after the war Zoots were very popular with older spivs also called wide boys (reference to their broad shouldered jackets). In the UK Spivs were street traders illegally selling black market goods.

By the mid fifties young men adapted the Zoot suit and wore them broad shouldered, tailored to the waist, and finger tipped length. The jackets had velvet narrow collars with deep concealed pockets. Because the new style resembled Edwardian clothing the kids were tagged as Teddy Boys. Tight trousers or drapes mirrored the peg legs and were worn to the natural waste. Highly coloured waste coats complemented the dark overcoat and trousers and replaced fish tailed ties. Teddy boys sported long key chains from their belt, sometimes a cowboy belt. This fell below the knee before coming to the trouser pocket. Chains were used as weapons and sometimes had knives or razors attached. Carjacking was not uncommon and many delinquents were dragged by a moving car when their long chains caught in the open style car door handle. By the sixties all cars had concealed door handles. The Fedora hat was replaced by quaffed long hair, pompadours with a DA (Duck’s Arse - resembling the rear end down of a duck) at the back. The ubiquitous hair comb became an essential accessory with more macho preferring 'Flickcombs'. Teds wore boot lace ties in reverence to the North American origins of their favourite music, Rock’n Roll (although in truth it was Hillbilly crossover). Alternatively they wore very thin ties called Slim Jims either way Teds were ensuring their neckwear was flying in the convention of the square shirt and tie brigade.

In Europe drapes and drainpipe were complemented with thick soled crepe shoes called brothel creepers. The attraction lay in their deliberate crudeness where leather or suede was sown into crepe soles, sometimes two inches thick. During the war British officers serving in the North African desert campaign took to wearing crepe soled suede shoes made by local cobblers. These were called desert boots. After demob many officers continued to wear their comfortable suede shoes and being single were often seen in the Red Light Districts of major cities. The shoes were given the tag brothel creepers and became irresistible to the emerging youth who customised them with less emphasis on the boot and increasing the thickness of the crepe sole. Brothel creepers were aggressive and the antithesis of the now urbane suede shoe worn by conventional smoothies (nerds). The rebellious youth culture appeared across the world, Teddy boys in England; Bodgies or widgies in Australia; Blousans noirs in France; and Halbstarke in Germany. Wherever the new music was played riots broke out and many early rock’n’ rollers, like Bill Haley and the Comets were banned from live performances.

Once initial reactions settled then R’n’R became big business with many black artists including Little Richard were introduced to European youth. Countries like Australia and South Africa had “white policies”, which meant only white artists’ music was given airplay. Later when R’nR was revived in the sixties the discrimination in Australia was overtaken and Little Richard toured Australia. Whilst in Sydney he experienced one of his famous conversion moments and through all his jewellery into the bay off Sydney Harbour Bridge.

(Video Courtesy: Jose cordova Published by Youtube Channel)

Merlis B & Seay D 1997 Heart & Soul : A celebration of black music in America 1930-1975 NY: Stuart, Tabori & Chang.

Reviewed 21/10/2018

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Sophia Loren on shoes

Long before Sarah Jessica Parker was Queen of the Hollywood well shod, Sophia Loren was keen to share her intimate relationship with her feet and wrote, “For me, feet are an erogenous zone." Like many women (and some men too), Sophia Loren is a self confessed shoe lover, not a fetishist or restifist but just a plain, shoe lover. She admits if she has an extravagant streak in her soul, then it must be her lust for shoes. In her book she describes shoes as a "kind of sculpture" with cantilevered platforms, delicate straps and expressive heels and toes. The actress is compelled to add these extraordinary works of art to her sizable collection. Sophia promises herself that one day she will open a shoe museum to encourage the appreciation of this neglected art. In 1984 she wrote, 'Perhaps it is this very quality of art and sculpture which makes many shoes more appropriate to a museum than a foot.

I am sure shoe designer, supreme, Manolo Blahnik would agree. He has produced fashionable shoes for over 40 years and personally handcrafts the wooden shoe lasts including carving the heels for every one of the tens of thousands of shoes that bare his name. Not only does he conceive the design of each creation before sketching it out but also draws all the illustrations for his advertising campaigns. Truly a labour of love and reason enough to justify the shoe price tag (average $700 Aus), some might argue. All the more reason to preserve the investment by exhibition. Sophia Loren owns dozens of pairs of beautiful shoes but only wears the few pairs that are really comfortable and fit well. A natural beauty but no fool she has expressed strong feelings about a society which symbolically enslaves their women by forcing them to hobble in high heels and personally saw the introduction of sports shoes for women in the 70s as an emblem of freedom and emancipation. Loren believes the best shoe "is none at all", and goes barefoot whenever possible. She finds barefoot walking in the sand helps her relax and exercise her feet and legs.

Her true secret for happy feet is to teach loved ones to massage them. Not alone there, for foot frolics including massage are now considered to be one of the most popular and universal form of precoital, hanky panky in the 21 century. The Movie Siren has sage words about buying shoes and likens the experience to a brief and sad love affair. With desire, satisfaction, disillusionment, and pain, all condensed into one afternoon's experience. She also recognises the importance colour can play. "I watched myself once in an early film wearing white pumps and my feet looked like Minnie Mouse's - I don’t have big feet but those white shoes somehow managed to fill the screen."

Sophia is not the only glitterati to be fascinated with shoes other famous shoe obsessionists include former Philippine first lady, Imelda Marcos and the late Yassar Arafat’s wife, Suha, She was reputed to have a collection of shoes to rival that of Marcos’. Singer, Mariah Carey has had a shoe obsession from childhood and has made every effort to buy them to compensate her frustration at only having one pair as a child. The diva wears her collection and works under the maxim. “even although the shoes hurt, as long as they look good, then I will wear them."

Madonna also has hundreds of pairs of shoes, but according to biographer, J Randy Taborrelli, most never saw the light of day. "She feels they are too fragile to wear in public for fear they might be damaged in the mad crush.” Madonna keeps her favourite shoes wrapped in tissue paper, From time to time she unwraps her treasures to stroke them, try them on, and then put them back into storage.

What does Dean Martin have in common with Oasis member, Noel Gallagher? Well Dean liked collecting loafers and Noel has more than 100 pairs of Adidas trainers.

Loren S 1984 Women and beauty London :Angus & Robertson 108-110

Reviewed 20/10/2018

Friday, October 19, 2018

Occupational Footwear: Shoes and sex workers

The Australia frontier years have left a legacy and prostitution is not illegal and in many States. Prostitution is operated under a containment policy. For example unusual by-laws were implemented to protect decent women and in Kalgoorlie (WA) sex workers could not go shopping in the town centre until after midday. The same ban extended to the use local restaurants and hotels. The embargo was extended to swimming pools, cinemas and the racecourse (Cohen, 1994). The history of containment relates to the growth of the urban middle classes which accompanied the industrial expansion of the nineteenth century. A class of leisured wives and daughters sought to use urban space in new ways, most notably by shopping and promenading in the central business districts. (Frances, 1994). The need to restrict these spaces to respectable women became important and this was done not through legislation of prostitution but instead through a policy of containment. Cleaning up the streets was not in itself an anti-prostitution action, historically the need for sex workers had become socially accepted, but instead it was to make the streets safe for respectable women. Undoubtedly the attack on street culture which followed contributed to the rise of brothels. But also it accounts for why today the citizens of many cities have restricted access to privately owned public places.

Bare feet, sandals, and high heeled pumps are stereo-typically associated with sex workers. From biblical times, sex workers were associated with the shoes they wore. It is documented working girls in Egypt wore sandals which left the message "follow me" in the sand. Ironically you can now buy sandals through the World Wide Web which leave the message "Jesus Saves" in wet sand. The daughters of Israel were warned against wearing elevated sandals which caused them to walk in a suggestive manner. Needless to say whilst the elders did not approve many would appear to have enjoyed the charms of those who did. In the sixteenth century many prostitutes would wear high platform shoes to stand out in the street.

Chopines were very popular with the fashion conscious in Italy but these women rarely if ever were seen in the street, preferring as they did, to be carried everywhere in sedan chairs. Occasionally courtesans (high class call girls) would step out in public but even this was rare. During these times, sex workers were required by law to dress in a manner which would identify their profession and many wore yellow about their person. Later when high heeled shoes had become passé with fashionable women, only prostitutes and men wore them.

From the time of the French Revolution to the American Civil War respectable women wore low heeled pumps. Heels became associated with affluence and so men after the revolution soon dropped the style. In New Orleans about the same time it is documented the French girls wearing high heeled boots became very popular with their clients. Historians believe the popularity of the high heeled call girls was the main reason for the introduction of shoe fashion industry to the US. The bad girl image was sealed when in the thirties Hollywood discovered the psychosexual nature of shoes as a means to determine screen characterisation.

Bad girls wore high heeled sandals on screen and many were contracted to do the same when ever in the public eye. Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe and Shelly Winters became sexy girls easily recognised by their shoes. This stereotypical misrepresentation has become part of globalisation and now going barefoot or wearing thongs (sandals) can find you debarred from entry to many privately owned public spaces. Dress code of this type has no purpose other than a thinly disguised way to protect preferred patrons from people of low socio economical groupings, prostitutes and cross dressers.

Reviewed 19/10/2018

Thursday, October 18, 2018

What eugenicists did for women's sport?

Summer holidays is a traditional time to rest and feast. Unfortunately most of us spend the rest of the year trying to lose the excess pounds we gain during the mid winter break. Spare a thought then for those athletes who need to keep in training during the holiday period. Whilst we might take women in sport for granted today, this was not always the case. Indeed during the early nineteenth century it was quite unthinkable for young ladies to be seen engaging in physical recreation. All this changed thanks in many ways to an eccentric man by the name Bernarr McFadden. He was a Darwinist and eugenicist and had made his fortune from writing and selling pulp fiction and magazines. Born in 1868, he was a prolific author and publisher of popular books and magazines. The self styled professor of kinesitherapy,wrote in his journals on the health the benefits of physical activities for men and women. Titles like Woman's Beauty and Health, Physical Culture, National Brain Power and Muscle Builder all became instant successes. McFadden’s publishing empire had another side to it and that was the sensational journal titles. True Story, True Romances, True Lovers, and True Confessions all came from the same stable. Men were more likely to read them but the journals did sell well and were the equivalent of today's soft porn.

Like contemporary eugenist, William Keith Kellogg inventor of the corn flake, cereal manufacturer, McFadden’s had many eccentric beliefs. Both men were of the opinion physical weaklings should not marry without first reaching an acceptable level of fitness. The ethos for Physical Culture, founded in 1899, was longevity of life and related to good living and appropriate exercise. McFadden often used himself as model for his publications and soon earned the title 'Bare Torso King'. Needless to say the popularity of his publications brought nothing but condemnation from the medical fraternity with much of their criticism directed toward encouragement of women taking exercise. It is not clear whether he was exploiting women or just preparing society to accept the importance of physical health for all. McFadden recognised how ignorant the general population was to the human body and cited better understanding would stop female degeneracy and make for a more physically fit and healthy nation. He encouraged young ladies to take up some of the more gentle outdoor pursuits such as walking, dancing, skating, croquet and cycling. He also advocated riding horses astride and for the more robust female frame women's baseball and basketball was ideal. This had major implications on the shoe industries.

As the popularity of physical culture societies spread throughout English speaking countries the middle classes flocked to them in their droves and of course needed the apparel. The first American Olympiad in 1904 included physical culture activities for women but females were not allowed to participate in the track and field events. The world was not quite ready for women doing physical jerks and it took another four years before the Olympic committee agreed to include ladies events (1928). Eugenics became a philosophical pillar of Nazi Germany in the thirties and mass exercise programs were openly encouraged. This again created a ready market for leisure shoes and as walking became a national past time; walking shoes took on the air of respectability and became the sensible shoes with its nemeses, the heeled pump.

It was only in the 1970s when the aerobic craze fronted by Jane Fonda was there as much interest in designing sport shoes for women. In the 21st century it has been left to the Soccer Moms to drive the shoe companies to cater for better fittings for girls’ soccer boots and now thankfully women in sport are better fitted than ever before.

(Video Courtesy: Amanda Regan Published by Youtube Channel)

Reviewed 18/10/2018

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Are podiatists really doctors? : Historical perspective

Heyman Lion was a corn cutter in Edinburgh, during the eighteenth century and his personal quest was not the Holy Grail but the meaning of corns. A life dedicated to discovery found him so frustrated with the dearth of information, he registered as a mature student at the Medical Faculty of Edinburgh University in 1791. Five years later after completing the course he presented himself for a degree of doctor of medicine as was his right. The Faculty refused to credit his doctorate because, in their opinion, he represented a disreputable craft (corn cutting), and was unworthy of being a member of an honourable society (medicine). They did however openly acknowledge his superb commend of the subject of medicine.

The distrust between the two professions can be traced to the Middle Ages and the incidence of plagues and sexually transmitted disease. In the 16th century, orthodox medicine was stumped by the sores associated with plagues and syphilis. With no known cure, anyone who could alleviate suffering was welcomed by society but shunned by the medical fraternity (who would turn away patients). Eventually during the reign of Henry VIII the the Quacks Charter was passed in 1542 which legitimised anyone who could cure skin sores by fair or foul means. Corn cutters thrived and purveyed corn salves much to the consternation of the medical fraternity who began referring to corn cutting as that “despicable trade.”

One hundred years later, medicalisation assured quack trades, such as corn operating, were once again assigned to unsavory back street operations. There they remained until the twentieth century. Ironically in North America to avoid being classed as quacks, the chiropodists formed a set of private colleges with a doctorate curriculum. Unfortunately these were not included within publically funded universities. Meantime medicine grew in respectability (thanks mainly to the aftermath of two world wars) and the fraternity were well ensconced in the public university system; podiatry was in the private education sector with no affiliation with publically funded universities. This is no longer the case but it took many years for podiatry to become part of the university system in North America. . Both professions use the title doctor, but this is a professional courtesy title only. Most MDs (Medicinae Doctor) hold a Master's degree although some physicians will have completed academic doctorate (PhD). By contrast podiatrists hold an honours degree, but many also complete Masters level education and some academic doctorates.

(Video Courtesy: Amanda Regan Published by Youtube Channel)

General acknowledgement across the health care community globally, promotes better understanding between professions and a more collective and cohesive approach to health care, which means better inter-professional collaboration. Medics and podiatrist are less likely to despise each other as they may have done in the past , but the difference does often attract the interest of comedy writers as witnessed in several episodes of Seinfeld (considered to be one of the most popular comedy soaps on the planet). One episode is directed entirely to the topic is a podiatrist a real doctor.

Heyman Lion came at a time when science impacted on all forms of human endeavour including corn cutting. He devoted his scholastic life to find the cause and cure for corns. Sadly his hard work whilst honourable was fruitless and even today we still have no real cure for local hyperkeratosis and podiatrists are left to do what the Greeks did, all those centuries ago.

Crossley E. J. (1957) Chiropody and Scientific Attitude Postgrad Med J 33: 511-513
Lion H. (1802) An entire new and original work; being a complete treatise upon Spinæ Pedum; containing several important discoveries.

Reviewed 17/10/2018.

What else do we do with shoes?

It is a staggering thought but in any year 1.3 billion pairs of shoes are bought in the US. That is the equivalent of 5 pairs per man, woman. & child. More designer sports shoes are sold to Australians than any other country in the West. This is despite having a population which is ranked as one of the unfitest in the world. So it is fitting perhaps we ponder for a moment of three on what people do with their shoes. In ancient Turkey when a wife wanted a divorce she would take off her shoe and turned it upside down in front of the Cadi or Magistrate. Her appeal would then be heard, if she persisted in her accusations she forfeited her marriage dowry, but was free to remarry.

During hard times the Khoikhoi, people of Namibia and the Cape Province of the Republic of South Africa (formerly known as the Hottentots) would boil the discarded shoes of the Dutch colonists and eat them. The action of primitive peoples you might think but the same fate awaited the pointe shoes of famous ballerinas in Russia, during the nineteenth century. Fans flocked to taste the culinary delights of the danseurs' footwear.

Shoes appear to be an important symbol of fertility in many cultures. Some Eastern religions have a goddess called Mother (she is the goddess of children). At certain times in the year childless devotees pray in her temple to be blessed with a shoe. These valued shoes were not those worn by the goddess but instead gifts from her faithful with offspring, attributed to her gracious blessing. Mother's shoe was taken home and placed in a niche which holds the family image of the goddess. In eagerness to produce some women got shoes from several different temples. When a child was eventually born the family had two replica shoes made and all three were returned to the temple with thanks offering of plates of food.

In some Asian countries if you pass a house and there is a pair of slippers left outside, then these may belong to a mendicant holy man. Fakirs are regularly consulted on matters of infertility and will pray with the infertile woman.

The levirate law of the ancient Hebrews dates back to the time preceding Moses. It concerns the fate of a recently bereaved widow who required marrying the next surviving brother in her husband's family. The custom was common in Palestine among the Canaanites, and there are traces of the custom in Africa and Mexico. Men were not compelled to marry their sister in law and could on declaration to a court free themselves from the commitment. One released widows were able to marry outside the family. The act of giving a brothers widow permission to marry another man is called Caliza or the ceremony of "loosing the shoe". The man refusing to marry his sister in law then puts on the shoe of the principle rabbi.

The woman meantime says in Hebrew " My husband’s brother will not continue the prosperity of his brother of Israel, and refuses to marry me, as being my brother in law.”The brother in law answers "I have no mind to take her."

The woman now removes the shoe throws it to the ground and spits. She says "So shall it be done unto that man who will not build up his brothers house; and his name shall be called in Israel, the house of him that hath his shoe loosed." She repeats this three times, the witnesses answer "He that hath his shoe loosed." The rabbi tells her she cannot marry again.

Scott GR 1995 Curious customs of sex & marriage London: Senate

Reviewed 17/10/2018

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Street criers and corn cutters

Prior to the Great Fire of London in 1666 it was common to advertise commodities through the medium of street criers. This form of advertising were concerned with two things, commodities such as fish, fruit, hot pies, & lace gloves etc.; or offers of personal services. These would include chimney sweeps, tinkers, riddance of rats and mice, dentistry, and proffers of the removal of corns. Instead of visiting the dentist and sitting in a gloomy waiting-room with an aspidistra and old Quarterly magazine on the table, all that was necessary was to go down to the pavement in front of the house and have your teeth drawn. Most of the professional services were brought to your door. The street cries were usually sung by a quartet.

"Here you are! here you are! all that has to complain of corns.
As fast as the shoemaker lames you, I'll cure you."

The lyrics were crude by modern jingle standards but often the tunes were composed by up and coming composers. The celebrated English composer Orlando Gibbons was a prolific jingle writer. Best known for his madrigals and music for the Anglican church. In 1605 he was appointed organist of the Chapel Royal and held the post until his death. He was named virginalist to the king, and in 1623 he became organist of Westminster Abbey. Gibbons never forgot his humble beginnings and composed a poignant fantasia for voices and viols based on the traditional cries of London street peddlers.

(Video Courtesy: TheEssexSerpent Published by Youtube Channel)

After the Great Fire less and less reliance was put on advertising through the medium of street cries although it did last for another 200 years. By the nineteenth century the few commodities that were still successfully sold included corn plasters and cough mixture. A common market ploy was to display letters of attestation especially from well to do addresses. Most of course were fraudulent. Another common hype was to have the product endorsed by a famous person.

One famous case involved the Duke of Wellington who sued a corn cutter involved for false claims. The Duke had a foot phobia and would not have a general in his ranks with sore feet. He was reputed to have said "all people with sore feet, deserve them!" Napoleon, on the other hand, had as his best friend and confident his podiatrist, but that is another story.

Street sellers were mainly men and worked in small teams in the city streets. They often used street cries which would be the forerunner of advertising jingles. Like the stereotypical blind match sales person, street vendors carried a tray of the product in front of them. To capture the attention of the audience the corn salve seller might display a bottle containing a corn reportedly belonging to a famous person. According to the vendor, the corn had been painlessly removed by the magical corn salve but needless to say this was seldom the case and the sample was often a piece of thick skin scraped from a cow's heel. Similar street marketing techniques are still commonly used today, but fortunately consumers are shielded from the most fraudulent by virtue of consumer protection laws and codes of ethical practice. However, buyers must always be aware.

I do recall fifty years or so ago, witnessing an Indian gentleman in Glasgow Barrowland, who reported he sucked out corns and displayed an array of jars full of the blighters to prove it.

Runting EGV 1932 Old street cries Chiropody Jottings London: Faber & Faber 215-217


Petticoat Discipline and Mary Janes

Throughout Victorian and Edwardian times and up to the First World War it was the custom to dress little boys and girls (up until the age 5 or six) in similar clothing. Dressing boys as girls was well documented and outfits included beribboned vests, petticoats, white lace dresses, and big bonnets. Photographic evidence would support some mothers preferred girls and continued to dress their sons as girls, long after five or six. Prior to the Great War little boys’ hair was worn long, curled and tied with bows. A common custom of the time was to use cross dressing as a punishment for misbehaviour or a preventative means to subdue young boy’s boisterous behaviour in public. This was sometimes extended until teens and early twenties. The practice was referred to as Petticoat Discipline and sometimes involved penis cages to subdue erections in young adolescents. Male masturbation and loss of semen were thought to cause poor health and insanity and so the Victorians discouraged teenage inquisitiveness with leather appendages sometimes covered with spikes to stop the young man from masturbating. In a less enlightened era many bright young men suffered this indignity. Under Tsar in Russia and prior to the Revolution young conscripts had wire pushed through their foreskins which were sealed with a picture of the Tsar. The habit was soon imitated and parents unable to afford a penis cage used needle and thread, instead. At one level Petticoat Discipline seemed to be an effective way to restrict uninvited boisterous behaviour.

In Victorian times children should be “seen and not heard,” and the idea a pre-pubescent drooling over girls was quite unacceptable so parents and nannies of middle class children dressed their male offspring in girlish clothing. Depending on the boy, sometimes only a bow tie, or short pants, or velvet fabric was sufficient, for others, lace, bows on the shoes, shaved legs, hair curled and girl's underwear was necessary. If this attire failed to curb abhorrent behaviour then more lace and ruffles were added. As part of the punishment lads were paraded in front of their family and friends who in turn were expected to demean and degrade them as part of behaviour control. Bed wetting often resulted in punishment which required boys were dressed in nappies (diapers) and baby clothes. The child was then expected to behave like a baby with Dummies (pacifiers) until they stopped wetting their beds or corrected whatever abhorrent behaviour. Petticoat Discipline became normal and accepted domestic behaviour in the homes of the Middle and Upper Classes. From a very early age, children from the higher strata of society were sent to boarding schools where similar punishment regimes were known be exist. Conditioning from early childhood experiences, reinforced by repetitive adolescent behaviour may account why some adults were attracted to paraphilic behaviours , such as sadomasochism. Naughty boys in mixed schools run by the state had to sit in the girl’s section of the class or in some instances given a dummy to suck. Mild by comparison to their public school equivalents. There are reports of cases where males as old as 20 years of age were kept in girl’s clothes for discipline reasons. At the time when Suffragettes were fighting for the vote, behind closed doors many married men were made to wear petticoats by their wives to ensure submission and obedience. Sometimes men wore frilled, full-length pinafores to the amusement of others and undertook all household duties as a punishment. Some male spouses were trained to do needlework and knitting.

In Scotland as a punishment little boys wore kilts without a sporran. As any kilt wearer will attest a strategically placed sporran is a counter balance to the male erection. Girls kilts had a bodice and boys wore these with silk petticoats and pretty knickers. This ensured they sat in an orderly fashion when in public. The old music hall joke, “There is nothing worn under the kilt, it is all in perfect working order.” relates to the adult male and assures all “Kilty cauldbums” were all man, with no evidence of Petticoat Discipline. The term Nancy boy was commonly used to describe teenage boys dressed in frills and dresses. A letter to the Times newspaper in the 1850s quoted a woman as saying she found.
"an effective cure for my 20-year-old son 's flirting with young ladies. Since corseting him and putting him into a short kilt he was unable to look at a girl full in the eyes, let alone ogle her. I heartily recommend this from of correction."

The purpose of dressing pubescent boys in girls’ clothing was probably to discourage masturbation, Short tight trousered sailor suits and tunic suits (Buster brown suits) became incredibly popular at the turn of the 20th century after the publication of an American novel by Francis Hodgson Burnett (Frances Eliza Hodgson), wrote Little Lord Fauntleroy (1886). The book was immensely popular and doting mothers across the world adopted the Fauntleroy look. Although detailed description of Cedric Erol’s (Lord Fauntleroy) suits was scant within her narrative the accompanying drawings by Reginald Birch were lavishly detailed.

Cedric wore clothing based on 17th century clothing consisting of short trouser velvet suits with broad lace collars. These were the trappings of the romantic hero and little boys and girls all the world over were dressed accordingly. The unisex outfits soon were regarded by boys as sissies’ and effeminate. This might have been reinforced when Little Lord Fauntleroy was made into a film and the role of Cedric Erol was played by a pretty, curly-headed girl. The effeminate connotations of the Little Lord Fauntleroy style made it perfect for petticoating. Prior to this, Upper crust families had dressed their children in velvet sailor suits with a tailored jacked and bib or lace collar. Sometimes the outfit had a floppy blow at the collar. All this was worn with tight bloomered pants, silk stockings, and single strap shoes, eventually to be called Mary Janes.

At first black was popular and the patent leather shoes were worn with white stockings or socks. The strap shoe had a strap or bar across the instep and closed the shoe upon the foot and was fastened with a button. Later buckles were used on shoe styles for smaller children because manipulating laces was difficult for small fingers. The width of the strap varied on the style of shoe and some were narrow, others had very wide straps. Later strap shoes appeared with straps which crossed the foot from the back of the shoe. Not quite as popular as the classic strap shoe but this style encouraged wearing different coloured socks. Today strap shoes have their equivalent in "T"-strap shoes or double-bar sandals. The strapped shoe became known as Mary Janes but some confusion exists as to whom Mary Jane was and why was a shoe style named after her. There are several contenders.

In 1914 Charles N. Miller named a bite-size candy made from peanut butter and molasses after his favourite aunt, Mary Jane. These proved incredibly popular and sold throughout the US. However, Mary Jane shoes had little to do with the candy unless the wrapper stuck to their soles.

By the early 20th century Mary Jane was a common enough name in the early and when in 1924 Alan Alexander Milne (1882-1956), author of Winnie-the-Pooh and The House At Pooh Corner, published a set of poems in ‘When we were young’ a rather mischievous girl called Mary Jane emerged in ‘Rice Pudding’.

What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She isn’t sick and she hasn’t a pain
And it’s medication time again
What is the matter with Mary Jane?
What is the matter with Mary Jane?
We’ve asked her and asked her to try and explain,
But she wants to go home, we may have to restrain,
What is the matter with Mary Jane?
What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She’s begging and pleading and crying again,
The poor girl’s deluded, completely insane,
What is the matter with Mary Jane?
What is the matter with Mary Jane?
We’ve given her therapy, shocks to the brain,
And more of that nice medication again,
What is the matter with Mary Jane?
What is the matter with Mary Jane?
She twitches and jerks like a doll on a chain,
And still no improvement, it all seems in vain,
What can be the matter with Mary Jane?
So that is the story of Mary Jane?
She wasn’t sick and she hadn’t a pain
But now she won’t ever be quite right again,
What have we done to you Mary Jane?

The popularity of the Scots ‘, children’s’ writer may account for the why the name became even more common in the early twentieth century, but this Mary Jane was not the source of the shoes. Neither was Christopher Robin Pooh Bear’s friend who remains the best known example of boys wearing strap shoes at the turn of the century.

The inspiration Mary Jane shoes (strap shoes) was a little girl who appeared in an early comic strip in The New York Herald (1902) The comic strip was called Buster Brown and created and drawn by Richard Fenton Outcault. Buster was a charmingly and likable young fellow who had everyday adventures. He was similar to Little Lord Fauntleroy is dress and custom but a little livelier. The Buster Brown comic strip was as well known in the US in the early 1900s as Homer Simpson is today. The comic strip ran until 1921 in one guise or another and may have inspired kiddie buddy moves including the films of the Young Rascals and the Bowrie Boys. Buster had a long-suffering mother, a sister called Mary Jane, but his best friend was a dog called, Tige. Tige is thought to be the first animal to talk in a comic strip. Buster and his sister were drawn wearing strapped sandals and the hero had a tailored suit with short bloomer type trousers. A US shoe company, ironically called the Brown Shoe Company, were quick to see the market potential of Buster Brown. They bought the name rights from the artist and trademarked “Mary James.” Mary Janes were introduced to the public in 1904 during the St. Louis World's Fair. The company followed this up with a unique marketing promotion and sent performing midgets, each dressed as Buster and accompanied by a dog (Tige), to tour the US, promoting Buster Brown shoes and Mary Janes. Needless to say they were an instant success and still sell well today. The decision to market "Mary Janes" as a girl’s shoe style was due to the rising popularity of the Oxford style shoes for boys (and men) as the English Style prevailed. The era for unisex shoes for children was over and Mary Janes represents the first example of sexualised footwear for children based on commercialism.

In the 30s the shoe style took a quantum leap in worldwide sales when Shirley Temple (1928 - 2014) wore them on screen with her dancing outfits. Not only did she make tap dancing popular with white populations she also established Mary Janes as the shoe style for little girl shoes. Her management missed no commercial opportunity and sold Shirley Temple, Mary Janes by the millions. Her original tap shoes from Curley Top (1935) are exhibited in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

An interesting sociological comparison can be made between Dorothy's slippers from the Wizard of OZ and Mary Janes as worn by Shirley Temple. The former is symbolic of coming of age and the later the bastion of innocence.

Interesting Links
Petty Coat Discipline Quarterly
Pooh Corner
Richard Fenton Outcault (1863-1928)
The Brown Shoe Company

(Video Courtesy: Damien Chemillé Published by Youtube Channel)

Reviewed 16/10/2018